Small French island seeks Scottish twin; must have own tartan and whisky.
It may not look like the most enticing lonely heart ad, but the French island of Ouessant, just off the coast of Brittany, is looking for the perfect twinning partner and it thinks it could only be in Scotland. The French, or rather the Bretons as they prefer to be called, claim allegiance to the old Celtic tribes, just as the islands of the west coast of Scotland generally have strong Gaelic links. They have already devised their own form of tartan and they like their whisky.
Rob Gibson, Scottish MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: “Ouessant is the first Breton Isle to create a tartan. Both Orkney and Shetland already have distilleries so why not a tartan of their own?”
Ouessant’s tartan design has been registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans and includes black and white stripes which come from the Breton flag and red and yellow to reflect the island’s crest.
Gibson is keen to encourage one fo the northern archipelagoes to be the first to adopt its own Norse tartan, and he has some ideas of what islands might already suit the twinning bill: "Barra is associated with Clan MacNeil and Skye with Clan MacLeod. Specific twinnings require a lot of effort but special arrangements can be made through parliament which we hope to bring to bear.”
Scottish islands are already home to several distilleries. Orkney, which lies just off the northern tip of Scotland, has a distinctive history and culture and is home to the Highland Park distillery. Shetland is, however, more renowned for fiddle music and knitwear than for bagpipes and tartan but has no distiillery. Islay is practically afloat on whisky with no fewer than eight working distilleries.
The fascination for Scotland among the inhabitants of Ouessant, who number around 1,000, follows a Scottish book festival hosted there in 2007. They want to find an island which is full of vibrant culture, history and heritage. Skye, home to the Talisker distillery, would be a good candidate though, with more than 10,000 residents, it is much bigger.
The Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It has had a long period of domination by Clan MacLeod and Clan Donald, and Dunvegan Castle has been the stronghold of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for almost 800 years.
The MacLeod owned the Talisker distillery until 1831 and has several tartans registered, including Green MacLeod, which was adopted by the clan society in 1910, and MacLeod Black and Red, registered in 1906 by The Tartans of The Clans and Septs of Scotland.
Gibson said: “I am in the process of contacting community councils and activists around our Scots isles to seek a possible partner for Ouessant. I look forward to helping these Atlantic isles to build new bonds of friendship.”